Review: Ty Segall ‘Whirlybird’ Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Of all the artists I’ve come to absorb over the last ten to fifteen years or so, few have proven to be as diverse, eclectic, and prolific as Los Angeles garage rocker, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Ty Segall. Since 2008, Segall has unleashed a slew of releases, mostly garage rock, but with experiments in psychedelic meanderings, as well as some dabbles in electronic music. Segall has proven to be a deft visionary, singer, guitarist, and songwriter. The restless rock & roller has also proven to be just as capable as a drummer, AND singer when he scratched his proto-metal itch with his band Fuzz.

Ty Segall 'Whirlybird' Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Diving into Segall’s vast catalog can be a challenge. Whilst I haven’t listened to EVERY single, song he’s released, I have dived in pretty hard to his full-lengths. I’ve found every one of them to be good (First Taste) to great (Manipulator, Slaughterhouse), and I do marvel at his skills as a multi-instrumentalist and the fact he’s so insanely prolific. Covering so many sounds and styles, Segall has now taken a dive into soundtracks, scoring the documentary film Whilrybird.

Some context: Whirlybird documents American broadcast reporter, and helicopter pilot Zoey (then known as Bob) Tur, and his wife Marika and their business, Los Angeles News Service, as they became trailblazers in news coverage, becoming the first to use a helicopter in breaking news, and the first to shoot and televise a high-speed chase. The Tur’s were also well-known for filming the 1992 Los Angeles riots, the attack on truck driver Reginald Denny, as well as the infamous 1994 OJ Simpson freeway chase. 

So, Segall’sfirst film score, a documentary on an aspect of the city he grew up in, seems fitting. Segall does a great job with setting mood, conveying emotion, and complementing the action on screen.  There’s plenty of nice synth, and keyboard work in opener Whirlybird, conveying an early-morning sunrise. While First Date’shappy keyboards, and triumphant guitar strums as the Tur‘s are just getting together.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles News Service ups the action with an up-tempo drum machine beat, driving bass line, and well-placed guitar strums, shuttling the listener along with the excitement of breaking news in LA. Sky Duo’sfloaty, synth is the perfect soundtrack for flying around Los Angeles. With Lawrence Welk lll, Segall breaks out some nice guitar work. Echo-y single note lines are accompanied by some elegant lead work, and a pretty killer live drumbeat. As far as this soundtrack goes, and Segall’ssingular skills, this is a highlight.

Ty Segall delivered when it comes to conveying mood, atmosphere, emotion, and tension…

Whirlybird also features dialogue from the movie set to the score, such is the case with First Pursuit. In this instance, Segall does an excellent job creating tension with drum rolls, and atmosphere, complimenting the intensity in the dialogue. 1992 and High are both synth pieces, with 1992 featuring some saxophone flourishes.

News Junkies is a pretty intense instrumental, invoking the heavy mood in the movie, as things are nearing the climax there’s an ominous synth, 80s-ish dance beats, and more sparse guitar work from Segall. Story Of The Century is the soundtrack to OJ Simpson chase, invoking the frantic, televised chase, to a rollicking drum beat, various percussion, and Segall’s omnipresent synth. Whirly Suite brings the mood down considerably, eliciting a somber mood, while Last Flight punctuates the subdued mood as both the film, and the soundtrack come to a close.

While I’m certainly not a connoisseur of film scores, I can say that Ty Segall delivered when it comes to conveying mood, atmosphere, emotion, and tension with this score. Whirlybird also displays what makes him such a prolific, driven, multi-instrumentalist, as he breaks out a lot of the tools from his toolbox, showing his skills with a multitude of sounds and instruments including both of what he’s most known for; guitar and drums.

I’m sure this will open up more film scoring opportunities for him, and for fans of his music, as I admittedly am, the songs on Whirlybird will serve as nice palette-cleansers in between his rock songs, next time I hit ‘shuffle’ on one of my Ty Segall playlists.

Label: Drag City
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Scribed by: Martin Williams